The first round of the NFL draft was a fun night ... from a distance
It was safety first in the opening round of the NFL draft on Thursday night — even though none of the teams selected an actual safety.
Just about everyone sheltered in place for the annual offseason extravaganza.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a V-neck sweater and joined by his golden receiver, Blake, announced the selections from his basement. Coaches and GMs transformed their living rooms into draft war rooms. And for a long while in this pandemic dystopia, no one dared budge.
There wasn’t a trade until the 13th pick, the first time that’s happened in five years, and everyone seemed determined to stick to the script.
When the New York Giants were about to make the fourth pick, the broadcast dropped in on GM Dave Gettleman, who was at his house in New Jersey and donned a mask moments after submitting his pick of Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas.
It was a bizarre sight. But Gettleman, 69, a cancer survivor explained: “Well, I have a young IT fellow over here with me. And we’re social distancing. Part of it is the mask. I’m fine.”
Justin Herbert is going from small town to big time in L.A. But to last, he and the Chargers are going to need to win, which is one thing he happens to be good at.
Even the most noteworthy draft risk — Miami taking on-the-mend quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick — was born out of an abundance of caution. The Dolphins didn’t want to blow it the way they did 14 years ago when they passed on a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees.
“For me and my family, whoever decided to take a chance on us, that’s where I belonged,” Tagovailoa told reporters. “My biggest thing is I’m trying to prove this was the right decision.”
When the draft was moved from Las Vegas, lots of teams relinquished the tumbling dice.
On a night when the Rams didn’t have a pick — their first comes at No. 52 — the Chargers negotiated for two.
They found a replacement for Philip Rivers at No. 6 in Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, then traded back into the round at 23 to take Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr.
This marked just the third time since 1967 that three quarterbacks went in the first six picks, with Cincinnati taking Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow first, followed by Tagovailoa and Herbert.
Rams did not have a pick in the first round and watch many offensive tackles and wide receiver go, two of their prime focuses in NFL draft.
Legendary Raiders owner Al Davis loved players with elite speed, and the franchise opened its Las Vegas chapter with an homage to that.
The Raiders used the 11th pick on Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III, who covered 40 yards in a scorching 4.27 seconds. The second selection by Las Vegas caught analysts flat-footed, however, as the team took Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, who many draftniks saw as a second-day player. He’s the son of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came when Green Bay took Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th pick.
It wasn’t startling that Love went in the first round, but that the Packers took him. They need an heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, but not many people expected them to go that way in the opening round.
Love led Division I quarterbacks with 17 interceptions last season.
However, as ESPN noted, the only player in the common draft era to lead college football in interceptions and still be drafted in the first round was Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
Far from normal, the 2020 NFL draft was a fine distraction, but also a reminder of how different the world will be when sports is allowed to return.
There were peculiarities to this draft. The first three selections were Ohio State players, at least at one point in their college careers. Burrow began with the Buckeyes before transferring. Teammates Chase Young and Jeff Okudah went second and third, to Washington and Detroit.
“I’ve dreamed of going to the NFL since I was about 6 years old,” Young said. “Like they say, you put the blood, sweat and tears into it. I believe I’ve done that all my life. It feels good to be in this moment.”
According to ESPN, which simulcast the draft with NFL Network, the SEC became the first conference to have six players drafted among the top 10.
USC tackle Austin Jackson was selected 18th by Miami, which sees him as a replacement to outstanding left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was traded to Houston last season.
Maybe the craziest day was that of agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents Tagovailoa and receiver Jerry Jeudy, chosen 15th by Denver.
Steinberg started his day in Los Angeles, and, cobbling together a collection of empty commercial flights, watched the opening of the draft in Gadsden, Ala., with Tagovailoa — at an appropriate distance, naturally.
The Chargers kept the No. 6 pick and selected Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. They then traded to get the 23rd pick and took Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. in the NFL draft.
After the quarterback was selected, the agent took a private flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to watch with the receiver.
“It was my first trip into a Brave New World since spending weeks social distancing in Newport Beach,” Steinberg texted.
Brave new world indeed.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.